Nov. 7—Legislation giving the Pennsylvania National Guard the authority to operate commonwealth-owned or leased vehicles has been signed into law, said the author of the bill, Rep. Joe Kerwin, R-Lykens.
Kerwin is also a captain in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
"Throughout the last few years PA Guard members have been activated at an increasing rate for state active duty, for everything from flooding events to civil unrest," Kerwin was quoted as saying in a news release issued Friday.
"Since PA Guard members are not considered Commonwealth employees, operating state vehicles on public roadways and highways was not permitted without first obtaining a waiver," he said. "This added restriction made it difficult for Guard members to carry out their mission."
A common misperception is that National Guard members are employees of the state when they are on duty for training or missions. Guard members are actually acting in a federal duty status, using federal government owned equipment.
"In order to be proactive for any future mission or emergency that may arise, and to make this COVID-19 waiver permanent, I proposed this proactive legislation to eliminate the need for the PA Guard to obtain waivers to operate Commonwealth vehicles during an emergency — the very events where time is of the essence and could mean the difference between life and death," Kerwin said.
Kerwin's bill was passed by the House in April and the Senate in October. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill as Act 124 of 2022. The law takes effect in 60 days.
"I want to thank my colleagues in the Pennsylvania House and Senate for unanimously passing this legislation and the governor for signing this bill into law," Kerwin said.